I have a disappointing capacity for insufferable snobbery. I won’t deny it. But I’m not beyond accepting my comeuppance, however quietly self-administered it may be.
Last night, I attended a free screening of Thank You for Smoking, a new comedy which satirizes the tobacco legislation debate. It’s a film designed to hook mainstream audiences with simple, recognizable caricatures of the players on both sides of the issue, and an unfaltering confidence in its own cleverness. Each and every gag winks smugly at the viewer, as if to say, “I knew you would get it.”
Accordingly, passes to this free screening were targeted at the sort of people who would appreciate having their intelligence validated without confrontation. It was with this well-populated demographic that I shared the theater. The lights went down, their heads nodded at the proper cues, and they even responded vocally to questions the film posed in the brief pause provided before the film gave the same answers itself. They were eager, agreeable witnesses to a peculiar piece of nonpartisan propaganda, a stylish celebration of complacent neutrality.
Before the movie began, a couple of hairless monkeys from Free FM (formerly known as “The Rock Station,” prior to being statistically established to play less music than any other commercial radio station in the United States) showed up to bark topical celebrity trivia into a microphone and reward correct answers with promotional t-shirts and tchotchkes. Running out of questions before running out of giveaways, they handed out the factory-fresh remains randomly on their way out of the theater. Startled at the vigor with which people literally tripped over each other to get some free crap, I had a condescending chuckle at their expense. It then occurred to me that I was about to give the next ninety minutes of my life to a movie I was not particularly interested in seeing, simply for the fact that it was free.